By Olivia Pierson
When I consider that all world leaders in their different eras get handed complex problems not of their own creation - Lincoln and the scourge of black slavery, say, or Churchill with the outbreak of the Second World War - I’m tempted to shrug and just conclude that it comes with the job. But then I remember that these great leaders of the past never had to confront a foe where a nuclear attack on themselves or a close ally may be the result of their actions.
President Trump has on his shoulders some immensely vexing burdens: the evil shenanigans of the Kim Dynasty in North Korea, the aggressive expansion of China into the South China Sea and their stubborn complacency over reining in North Korea, the aggressive expansion of Russia into the sovereign state of Ukraine and their support of Assad in Syria - three of these regimes possess nuclear weapons. There is also, of course, the ongoing catastrophe of Syria and its dastardly Iranian and Russian backed dictator, Assad.
Throw into the mix of these weighty matters the other black foe of Islamic barbarity, ISIS (and the many hundreds of militias who fight for a similar cause including the Taliban in Afghanistan), and one starts to get a dark overview of only some of the problems that the president has to wake up to every morning - and these are just his foreign policy concerns.
As I write this, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi has arrived in Mosul and prepares to announce a victory over ISIS in this last stronghold of the terrorist army in Iraq. There is no longer an Islamic State of Iraq & Syria in terms of territory, it has been obliterated thanks to an aggressive offensive fought by a coalition of Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia militias and American air power and special forces. But many ISIS fighters shed their uniforms only to melt back into the civilian population; they were not all killed unfortunately, but many thousands were.
Back in May, United States Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, said after being empowered by President Trump to annihilate ISIS:
“Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot… Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We're not going to allow them to do so. We're going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”
The fact that the feckless President Obama did not cut this beast’s head clean off when it first dramatically emerged in a country where American troops had just spent ten years fighting a savage insurgency, goes to clearly show that an American president’s actions or inactions can indeed be a force for evil or a force for good. ISIS is just Al Qaeda rebranded and reinvigorated, until now. As of this year they are thoroughly demoralised - their caliphate was meant to be the fulfilment of a dearly held prophecy. They will meet the same fate in Raqqa, Syria, before too long. They will also send as many of their fighters as they can into Western nations to wreak terror on modern cities - and that will be the fault of Western leaders and Western citizens who have taken an inflexibly soft-headed stance on the “refugee crisis” by demanding that they all be let in under the unquestioned sentiment of compassion.
All I can say on this score is President Trump made it clear from the outset that he wanted to severely limit immigrants - and refugees - from coming into the United States if they were coming from the unstable parts of the Islamic world, and he was courageously and morally correct to take that stand considering whose interests he was voted in to represent. As it happens he is also trying to protect the whole world from an adversary as wicked as ISIS, if Secretary Mattis’ words above are anything to go by.
Syria is going to be more tricky, with no simple solutions in sight.
Syria, unlike Iraq, comes with the hated Baathist dictator still in residence - and propped up by Iran and Russia. Syria, under Assad, has lost over a quarter of its population in six years. An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and around 5 - 6 million are displaced - 2 million reside in refugee camps in Turkey, between 1 - 2 million made their way to Europe (the official number is unknown - a major cause of concern for the West) and another 2.5 million have allegedly been absorbed into the Gulf States, Lebanon and Kuwait. For those who always like to say, as far too many people did after Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were deposed, that it’s ”better to leave the dictator/strongman in power no matter how brutal he is because he is the one who keeps the country stable”… how does that worn-out, cheap little bromide work for you now when you consider Assad’s Syria?
Just before the war started, in 2011 at the time of the so-called Arab Spring (or Islamist Winter) when Syrian students and citizens came out to protest against Assad’s dictatorial regime, never let it be forgotten that Assad had in his slaughterhouse of a prison at Sednaya many high ranking, ferocious Al Qaeda operatives whom he let out when he feared that the United States might also be of a mind to depose him as they had done with Hussein and Gaddafi. Better to risk violence from terrorists and look like the man standing between them and peace than look like the bastard standing between dictatorship and democracy. Since then he has allegedly used chemical weapons (sarin, mustard, chlorine) and lied about it around 50 times - so it was with great relish that I watched President Trump order the 59 cruise missile attacks on the Shayrat airbase, which decimated 25 percent of Assad’s airforce. Good job President Trump!
President Trump is now seeking to negotiate a ceasefire in Syria with President Putin, who insists on abetting this piece of filth, Assad, but whether or not the ceasefire will hold is anyone’s guess. Trump has made it clear to Assad, Putin and the whole world that if Assad uses chemical weapons again the United States will unleash hell on them every time. Trump doesn’t call this a “redline” but that’s exactly what it is and he has already enforced it - and all civilised countries of the United Nations should give him their support since it is an important part of the Geneva Protocol.
The most imminent foreign policy threat on President Trump's plate continues to be North Korea as they are a rogue nation which has nuclear weapons. No person of sense anymore doubts that they will use them, whether provoked or not. Their leader, Kim Jong-un, makes constant threats to hit the American homeland with nuclear warheads, which can no more be ignored than the similar threats made by the Iranian regime to hit Israel and America, but they aren't a nuclear power - yet - and hopefully never will be (Israel would certainly strike their nuclear facilities preemptively before allowing that to happen).
The Kim Dynasty for the last 70 years has absolutely no regard for its own people, it is well known that North Korean citizens live in a state of abject fear and slavery, as is a common story for citizens living inside an ultra communist nation. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens: men, women, children and babies, subsist in concentration camps which have been modelled on the gulags of Stalin. The crimes for which a citizen can be sent to one of these ominous slave-pens range from being an official who has fallen out of favour with the regime, to being a third generation relative of someone who has fallen out of favour with the regime, or for not keeping the compulsory household portrait of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, clean enough - in other words, you can be sent to a death camp for no reason at all. Some of these hell-holes have 50,000 prisoners who are subject to beatings, torture, medical experiments, rape, barbaric executions, starvation and being worked to death. We know these facts because of the testimonies of people who have defected, like Lim Hye-jin, who was a prison guard lucky enough to defect to South Korea.
Every American president since Bush Senior has kicked the can of dealing with North Korea down the road, but now that it is clear the regime possesses nuclear weapons technology, the dead end of that road has loomed large. After the horrific incident of American student, Otto Warmbier, being arrested in North Korea on a spontaneous tour to the rogue nation and then obviously tortured into a coma, only to die in America after Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, instructed by President Trump, negotiated his release, the President is motivated to deal with North Korea once and for all. No one is quite sure what that is going to look like; China is committed to enabling North Korea’s dependency on them and fears the humanitarian crisis which would pour over their border if there were a war - or a liberation. Frankly China deserves it since its economic enabling of the North Korean regime has augmented in the first half of 2017, not diminished, as President Trump hoped it would.
This is a huge diplomatic struggle for President Trump who has a range of options on the table: strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities and its leader, or fresh economic sanctions and a trade off for something North Korea may want from America (like a reduction in troops on the South Korean border). Another option may be to nuclear arm Japan. South Korea is understandably nervous - a war with its northern rogue neighbour could mean millions of deaths. However, the time for successful sanctions and negotiations was before they acquired nuclear weapons. For an overview of the military options on the table go here.
President Xi of China enables the Kim regime as President Putin of Russia enables Assad's. Is it any wonder that in his first year of the presidency Trump has been striving to cultivate decent diplomatic relations with both these men? If he didn’t, the world (let alone the main stream media) would crucify him for not taking a diplomatic approach. He must try that option before becoming heavy handed with either of these super powers.
When President Trump says, as he does from time to time, “I inherited a mess,” upon winning the presidency, he is by no means engaging in exaggeration.
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